Sunday, July 14, 2013

El Cajas National Park in Ecuador - Our first day hike in the Cajas!

Our Day in El Cajas National Park
Now that we have our residency visas and cedulas, our plan is to begin to explore more of beautiful Ecuador, and also to eventually visit other South American countries.  In the past few weeks we've visited Ingapirca for their Inti-Raymi celebration, we've ridden city buses to the end of their route and explored the outskirts of Cuenca, and we even went to Peru for a long weekend!   A few days ago, we made our final plans to take a bus to El Cajas National Park and spend the day hiking and photographing this majestic area.  Well, two days before our scheduled trip, we met another "Blog Friends" couple visiting Cuenca whom we invited to join us.

On Thursday morning the four of us walked to the Cuenca bus terminal, took an early "Cajas-Guayaquil" bus for $2 each,  and a scenic and pleasant hour long ride later we were dropped off near the main tourist lodge.  Because of the heavy rains all week the park was closed for two days, and we just happened to pick the day when they reopened.  I read that it cost $10 per person for the use of the park, but the "joven" who registered us said there was no charge.  She then looked a bit concerned at some of our foot gear and warned us that we should stay on the lower trail because the higher paths were very soft and muddy and required high boots (yet, we saw a young man hiking in shorts and sandals this very day - unbelievable!!)

So, how to dress for the Cajas?  Layers and warm clothes!  Our friends purchased warm jackets the day before our excursion knowing it would be cold at El Cajas elevation (hikes range from 11,000 to 15,000 feet, from what I've read).  I had my Gortex raincoat and lots of warm layers underneath, wool socks and hiking boots, a scarf, and a wool hat and gloves.  Yes, it was that cold this early overcast and windy morning.  I'm glad I did enough research to know the importance of dressing for this occasion.  To be cold and wet is a miserable experience when hiking in the mountains.  We also brought lots of water and snacks for the day. 

After registering, we headed down the wooden stairs for Trail #1.  Because it was our first visit to the Cajas, we wanted our day to be leisurely and fun, and we were all aware that we would probably run into some mushy muddy areas along the trail.  Our first Caja hike began at 10 am and we were back at the lodge by 3:00 pm.  It was a fabulous day of constant weather changes (it never rained - yea!!!) from overcast clouds and chilling winds to warmer and calmer sunny blue skies.  The cloud formations were magical, the scenic mountain views were beyond words, and the lakes and foliage were unique and colorful.

Back at the lodge, we sat by a warm crackling fire, finished our snacks with some cold beers, and rested up before heading back to the road and bus shelter.  We caught a 4:30 pm $2 return bus to Cuenca and walked into El Centro from the bus terminal.  It was a fabulous day for all four of us, and Bo and I look forward to our next trip to the Cajas.  If you haven't been to the Cajas, you must!  If you are unable to hike, I hope some of my photography will give you an appreciation for this majestic and scenic area of Ecuador. Enjoy!!
Blog friends, Larry and Bea, are ready to brave the cold!  It was fun hiking with two fit and fun "go-with-the-flow" people.
It's impossible to describe the beauty and majesty of this area.  You have to see it to believe it!
We were surrounded by sparkling lakes, sweeping grasses, and bonsai-looking trees along the path.
Throughout the day, the weather would change from heavy thick white clouds to patches of clear blue skies.  It never rained, and we were thankful for a dry hike.
We stopped and chatted with a tour group of Europeans along the trail.....
......but most of the day we had the entire area all to ourselves.  It was so peaceful and magical.
I loved photographing the colorful plants.....
......some growing amidst the sweeping tall grasses.....
.......others upright and glistening in the sunlight.
Many of the plants I have never seen before.  I wished they had a pamphlet at the lodge to help identify these unique South American species.

Colorful succulent plants and tall bamboo-like grasses bordered the lakes and mountain peaks.
Our friends take a break along the trail.
Every turn revealed more and more beauty and peacefulness.
Sometimes it felt like we could touch the clouds.
White rocks and clear blue waters
I've hiked through some amazing Cascade mountain ranges in Oregon, but the Cajas took my breath away!
We saw beautiful llamas along our journey.......
.......jagged mountain peaks......
......lush green grasses and foliage......
.....and thick clouded skies over glistening waters.
No two lakes or mountain ranges looked alike - every turn on the trail revealed the splendor of this area.

It was one of our favorite days of exploring since coming to Cuenca.  Thank you Larry and Bea for joining us and making our day even more special.  Now we're ready for our next adventure.  I wonder where it will be??




  1. Absolutely beautiful! I love seeing the country through your eyes and your camera! Was obviously thinking of you when I heard of the volcano in Ecuador that let off some steam, but you must be far enough away that it didn't affect you.

    1. Hi Shadley,
      Yes, El Cajas was absolutely breathtaking! Bo and I plan to go back there OFTEN - it's so close to us and there are so many more park trails to hike and photograph. I'm glad you are able to journey through this area of Ecuador through my photography and writings. keep on reading. Hopefully, one day you can come visit and see it all for yourself!!!

  2. Hi Linda and Bo,
    We've been following your blog since April. You have been so influential in helping us decide that Cuenca will be our next home. When I stumbled across your enchanting photography and writing the deal was sealed. Since that time we've sold our home of 23 years, moved into an apartment to begin our downsizing and stopped accepting any new wedding photography contracts. Once we finish this years committments and pay taxes in January the plan is to land in Cuenca sometime in February. I can't wait to meet you both and head off for a day of photography with you. You have a great eye and a wonderful heart. I hope you have room for two more friends. If you would like to know a bit more about us, check us out at www.aaronstadt.com
    Patrice & Stephen

    1. Welcome to our blog, Patrice and Stephen!
      I'm thrilled that this blog and my photography has been inspiring and informative for you both. It sounds like you've been busy making plans for your new adventure. I look so forward to meeting you both and taking photography trips together - that's a must! I know I'll be able to learn some wonderful photography techniques from you both - something I am always hoping for as photography is such a passion for me. Stay in touch and soon we will meet. Time flies when you're packing for Ecuador!!!!
      Your future friends in Cuenca,
      Linda & Bo

  3. Hi Linda,
    My name is Margaret and I recently saw an episode of house hunters international which featured Equador. I was fascinated. My husband, Vello found your blog and I've really been enjoying reading it. Your photography is amazing! I don't know if we'll ever move there since it's so far from our kids, but reading your blog sure makes it tempting.

    We have our own little travel blog: http://headingdowntheroad.wordpress.com It's not nearly as fabulous as your's but I thought you would appreciate the feedback on what a great job you're doing.

    Keep up the good work,
    Margaret Forsyth

    1. Welcome to our blog, Margaret!
      Thank you for your kind words and compliments about our Blog. I hope you continue to read about and enjoy our Ecuador Journey and Adventure! I did look at your blog, and it brought back memories of our USA travels in our Prevost in 2010. Moving to Ecuador won over retiring to a USA "Bus" lifestyle. We're glad we came to Cuenca - it's a beautiful Historic City and there is so much to do and see since we've arrived here.
      Stay in touch, and may your continued travels be an on-going adventure.

  4. Hello there Linda( a blast from your past ) glad I found this blog
    Ted and I often wondered where in the world you had gone to.
    We went to Ecuador some years ago to photograph Hummingbirds.
    Loved it there.

    1. Hi Joan and Ted,
      Welcome to our blog! WOW! Truly, a blast from the past!!! We are going to be in Florida (Largo) in about a month. It would be amazing and wonderful to see you both and catch up on all the years between us. You can e-mail me at my name at gmail dot com. Drop me a line if you want to get together while we are in your area, before we head back to Cuenca in October. It made me smile to hear from you again.

  5. Linda, what a great day you had. Thank you for sharing it and illustrating it so beautifully, as always.

    This site should allow you to identify the flowers you saw


    1. Hi Polly,
      Thank you for sharing this site - very enjoyable to learn about the different Cajas plants. It certainly was a glorious and memorable day. I'm excited that tomorrow Bo and I are leaving early for our third visit to hike in the Cajas for the day. We have friends who own a restaurant on their private Cajas property - so it will be a very special day indeed. I hope to share more amazing photography of that area and a bit about our day.
      So be looking for another Cajas BLOG post.


Leave us your comments and I will respond with any questions you may have. Enjoy our Blog! Linda (y Bo)